Establishing Bedtime Routines
Getting your child to sleep is one of the most difficult tasks for Parents. If your child has special needs, this becomes a sometimes impossible task. Establishing a bedtime routine can sometimes make it easier for your child to fall asleep. Here are some tips on establishing a bedtime routine:
- Establish a set bedtime In order to find your child’s ideal bedtime, in the evening look for cues that they are getting physically tired (slowing down, eye rubbing, yawning). These cues indicate the ideal bedtime. Your child should be put to bed at or before their ideal bedtime. If you wait beyond that time, the child may have a harder time falling asleep.
- Daily routine Babies and young children thrive on predictability and routine. As much as possible try to maintain the same waking time, mealtimes, and nap times as anchors to the child’s daily schedule. Regular exposure to bright morning light helps set the sleep-wake cycle. Exercise, stimulating activities, and fresh air should be included in the daily routine.
- Environment Some babies are soothed by the sound of an air purifier or fan running. White noise machines are also available. Other children prefer to listen to soothing music as they drift off to sleep. Dim the lights in the evening as bedtime approaches and limit the time children spend in front of a bright television or computer as bedtime nears.
- Nightly Routine The atmosphere at bedtime should be secure and loving with special time carved out for the two of you. Bath, cuddling, talking over the day’s events, reading, or singing lullabies are some good quiet activities. Activities in the routine will vary with the child’s age.Some children with special needs may enjoy bedtime massage (to help them physically relax), and gentle rocking. They may also benefit from a visual schedule of their bedtime routine. Be firm with the time and routine and follow it with regularity. The routine should end with the child in bed sleepy but still awake.
- Bedtime Props Children with separation anxiety may benefit from having a special plush toy or blanket placed in bed with them for the night. This can also serve as a physical bedtime cue for a young child with vision loss.For your babies first year, use a pacifier to sooth them. Pacifiers have been associated with decreased risk of SIDS, and are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). For breastfed infants, the APP recommends delaying introduction of a pacifier until after the first month of well-established breast feeding. The AAP does recognize that long-term use of pacifier can lead to problems with dental malocclusion, which is usually reversible when the pacifier is discontinued.
- Flexible Routine You should be able to use the bedtime routine anywhere, and more than one person should be able to use it to help the child get to sleep. This way your baby or child can get to sleep wherever you may be.